The father of an “idyllic” family is charged after driving Tesla off a cliff


They were the “idyllic” family at the end of the cul-de-sac.

With their pair of Teslas parked in the driveway, Dharmesh Patel, 41, and his wife, Neha, 41, were the most visible family in the quiet residential neighborhood of single-family homes of Lomay Place in Pasadena. As a couple, they pushed a stroller occupied by their 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter as they went for a morning run. Patel was handing out cookies to neighbors. His wife started a mass text thread to keep neighbors in touch.

On December 24, before leaving for Northern California for the holidays, Patel even brought his next door neighbors a poinsettia plant – which is now growing in their living room.

Photo of the Pasadena home of Dharmesh Patel, his wife and their two children.

(Noah Goldberg/Los Angeles Times)

But the silent street was rocked on Tuesday with news that Patel had been charged with attempted murder and child endangerment after driving the family’s white Tesla off a cliff on Highway 1 in an area called Devil’s Slide in Northern California. Neha and the two children were in the car with him. Everyone survived the 250-300ft fall, but the family’s celebration of the miraculous rescue quickly soured after Patel was arrested at Stanford Hospital, where he is being treated for injuries sustained during the of the accident.

“They are a beautiful, idyllic family, no indication of trouble,” said Roger Newmark, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 40 years. “It’s so strange because he’s a great guy. Maybe it was a crazy moment.

Newmark said the Patels moved into the house at the end of the cul-de-sac about five years ago and quickly became a fixture in the tree-lined block and the image of a happy nuclear family. They sent out Christmas cards this year with photos of the family members, smiling brightly.

The Patel family Christmas card.

They Patels sent Christmas cards this year with pictures of family members.

(Noah Goldberg/Los Angeles Times)

The card wished their neighbors a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, from “The Patels”, written in script at the bottom. Inside the Patel house, a Christmas tree is still decorated with ornaments. An easel for children is set up in the corner of a room, still untouched. Outside the house, a stroller is in the attic.

“Love falls before everything else,” reads the doormat on the front door.

Patel – a radiologist who worked at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center – was often seen outside playing with the children, and he never seemed to take his eyes off them, a neighbor said. On social media, Neha posted photos of Patel and the kids, documenting the children as they transitioned from babies to toddlers. A photo shows their son’s first birthday ‘fiesta’. In another post, Neha complained about her husband’s reaction to a proposal on reality TV show “The Bachelorette.”

“So Dharmy,” replied a friend, using a nickname for Patel.

“I love Dharmy,” said another.

“He’s so present,” said Sarah Walker, who lives a few houses down and has spent time with the Patels because she has kids the same age. “Dharmesh and I were waving ‘Hi’, but he was still coming and having a conversation. He was always happy and ready to talk.

The father of an "idyllic" family is charged after driving Tesla off a cliff

Dharmesh Patel delivers a poinsettia plant to a neighbor’s house.

Video surveillance taken on a Ring camera on Christmas Eve at Newmark’s house shows Patel walking to deliver a poinsettia plant to his neighbors, despite not being home. He left the plant and a Christmas card after talking to a relative who looked after the house.

“I’m Dharmesh,” he said to the woman, telling her he lived next door. He gestured toward his house, where the white Tesla is parked outside the garage.

“Can I just leave it [the poinsettia] at the front door?”

Police had never responded to a domestic disturbance at Patel’s home, according to a spokeswoman for the Pasadena city manager.

Any potential threat to the Patels seemed to come from outside their home. Police have come to the Patels’ address nine times since 2017, responding to burglary alarms sounding or suspicious people being reported.

The incidents were all characterized as false alarms, unsubstantiated or canceled, according to Pasadena Police Department records shared with The Times. Both suspicious person incidents were marked as ‘missing on arrival’.

Investigators have yet to announce a motive behind their attempted murder charge, or disclose the evidence that led them to the charge.

After reviewing evidence of the crash, California Highway Patrol investigators “developed probable cause to believe this incident was an intentional act” and placed Patel under arrest, according to a news release.

Patel and his family remained hospitalized on Wednesday. The San Mateo District Attorney told The Times that he had not yet received information about the CHP case.

When he is fit to be discharged from the hospital, where he is under constant police surveillance, Patel will be incarcerated in the San Mateo County Jail, according to Dist. Atti. Steve Waggaffe.

But as they wait for answers, the neighbors continue to struggle to face the charges with the friendly family man they knew.

“Really, I can’t believe it,” Walker said. “No one can believe it. They felt like newlyweds. The way they interact and look at each other, it was like they should be together.


Los Angeles Times

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